At a Republican campaign rally a few years ago, I asked one of the attendees how he got his news.
“I listen to Rush and read NewsMax,” he said. “And to make sure I’m getting a balanced view, I watch Fox.”
My liberal friends get their information from distinctly different sources — Huffington Post, Daily Kos and Rachel Maddow. To make sure they get a balanced view, they click Facebook links — from their liberal friends.
This is life in our echo chamber nation. We protect ourselves from opinions we don’t like and seek reinforcement from like-minded allies.
The paradox of the Internet age is that never before have we had access to more ideas and different thoughts. And yet, many of us retreat into comfy parlors where everyone agrees and the other side is always wrong. Each side can manufacture its truths and get the chorus to sing along.
Where you get your news says a lot about you and your political beliefs. If your primary source is FOX News you are probably a right-winger. But are you a right-winger because you watch FOX or do you watch FOX because you’re a right-winger?
Eleven months ago a mentally-ill young man in Tucson walked into a supermarket and shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords along with nineteen other people. Six were killed and fourteen were wounded.
Right after the shooting took place when only the sketchiest facts were known, some people were already convinced that the shooting was connected to Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. Eleven months later no such connection has yet been shown. In fact, if anything Jared Loughner was a left-wing nutjob. (In May, 2011 a judge ruled that Loughner was incompetent to stand trial.)
And yet today there are many people who are still convinced that Sarah Palin and the Tea Party were responsible for Loughner’s actions. If you try to tell them otherwise they will get angry.
The reason is that in their minds the connection between Loughner, the Tea Party and Sarah Palin fits a pre-conceived narrative. That narrative says that the Tea Party is filled with angry, violent racist wingnuts with guns.
These preconceived narratives exist on both sides. They are tribal narratives. They tell us that “we” are the good guys and “they” are the bad guys.
If you try to buck the narratives of your tribe you run the risk of being outcast and shunned. They might even call you a ratfucker.
Maybe that’s what they mean when they say “The truth hurts.”